Despite the fact that it reliably comes up with some of the best and most original jokes in TV comedy, delivered by one of the strongest casts, and has been nominated for Best Comedy Series at the Emmys for each of its four seasons, one of the knocks on Silicon Valley has been that, not unlike its HBO forebear Entourage, the show seems to pile problem after problem on its characters, only for everything to miraculously resolve itself in the end and our heroes to walk away unscathed.
One could certainly level the same charge against the most recent season, which saw long-suffering tech genius Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch) lose interest in his own company, Pied Piper, after its pivot to a video chat app created by one of his engineers, Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani). Richard is more interested in another idea, totally unrelated to the compression algorithm that served as the chew toy for all of Silicon Valley (the place, not the show, but also the show) to fight over: Richard wants to create a decentralized internet, using smartphones and other connected devices. And wouldn’t you know it, but by the end of the season, after numerous disasters including causing the destruction of 9 million phones, everything worked out in the end, when it turns out that through a total accident, Richard’s theory is proven correct and he once again ends up the darling of Silicon Valley (the place and the show), pursued by eager investors and once again at odds with Hooli, the show’s Google stand-in.
But this season did something a little different along the way: it had Richard break bad, gradually compromise his ethical standards in pursuit of his goal in a way he never had before, sneaking his New Internet code into a HooliPhone update and causing the aforementioned disaster, risking Big Head’s job at Stanford to get a crack at its server farm, and even chasing mild-mannered, morally upright Jared (who, as played by the criminally not-nominated Zach Woods, has become the best character on the show) out the door for questioning his decisions.
Appropriately, series creator Mike Judge is up for a trophy for the season finale, “Server Error,” as is editor Brian Merken, while writer Alec Berg and editor Tim Roche are up for the season premiere, “Success Failure.” I’d have to give the edge to Judge and Merken, because while the premiere had the very funny subplot about Jack Barker and Gavin Belson’s private-jet squabble (which I shall not spoil), “Server Error” pointed the sometimes formulaic show in a new direction, and did so quite deftly.
All four seasons of Silicon Valley are available on-demand on HBO.